Orion

I have seen you unexpectedly
in the sky over thin Iona,
leaning against a whispy cloud
in the light of a chill dawning.

I await your appearance
each Autumn dusk
for you are the harbinger
of long dark nights ahead.

I greet you by name
leaving or arriving home,
seek you out overhead
easily seen in a city sky.

Now you watch over me,
for you are visible
each night when
my head rests upon its pillow.

Through the uncurtained window
I know you track with me
the dreams of Winter,
and assist me in any successful hunt.

 

 

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Mystery Bowl Contemplation – One

It has been ages, or at lease feels like it, since I introduced this new mode for me to engage in deep contemplation of the elements as I was led to use one for each day of the week. Like everything else over the summer this ground to a halt, but as I have reclaimed myself and my journey this aspect has reasserted itself in its proper place in my spiritual practice. Today is the first day I have claimed back the time and set aside the body/mind/soul space to enter what I knew, as it unfolded for me, would have a profound impact on how I comprehended everything.

0921 hours

The cats are fed, their litter trays sorted, and we’ve had a good old bash of chase the stick and attack the red spot.

Being a Sunday, today’s contemplation is Mystery for which I hold one of my small Iona bowls. It now has an inexpensive white metal spiral in the bottom that surfaced as I was hunting for something in my trim and notion drawer.

Immediately, I am taken to visions of Spirals of all types and sizes: to the swirl of galaxies; the double helix of my DNA; the eddies of water in streams and rivers; whirlpools; hurricanes; tornadoes; spiralling circles in folk dances; whirling dervishes; the unfolding of grape hyacinths and hibiscus flowers; spinning prayer wheels; cats and dogs chasing their tales; the winding steps to the tops of towers; fern fronds and pea tendrils. Each of these images emerged in rapid succession. Everywhere spirals, as everywhere mystery.

It matches the expanse and extent of the pervasiveness of mystery as I contemplate it this morning. Mystery. My-story. Mist–story. All word plays. Mystery, that which is hidden in plain sight before me, around all of us. There is mist/fog/low cloud, call it what you will, settled over the Maize Mothers gathered across the road. There is an ambient and chilly dampness pervading the air and seeping into the bones.

More Spirals. We speak of inflationary spirals in economics. Some know all too well the spiralling descent into depression. When events, behaviours or things go terribly wrong we say they have spiralled out of control. We live our lives on the arm of a spiral galaxy. Our art from earliest times and across divergent cultures use the spiral.

So, the mystery at the heart of today’s contemplation unfolds in me, before me, as I gaze into the bowl cradled in palms of my hands, cupped holding this container of wonder.

The mystery here, for me at least is best stated: How did this come to be? How did this image take such a hold on our collective imagination that is it used in describing so many areas in life?

After all, we use it to describe the pattern of our deepest most intimate reality, that which is at the depth of our very making. The swirling, twirling, spinning we share with so much of the life about us.

Again images emerge. The potters at the wheel, spin and draw up clay to form a pot or wind ropes of clay to do the same. The basket weavers do the same in a different medium. Squirrels chase each other over tree trunks in spirals. Some birds construct nests in a sort of spiral pattern. Yarn is spun twirling fleece or cotton or silk into long, long spiralled strands.

Mystery and spirals merge and part as I continue my contemplation.

Mystery is part of my-story. Wonder. Yes, we know we can explain how certain phenomena occur in nature. But that doesn’t rob from me the elegance of mystery, the mist-shrouded sense of something deeper than what empirical evidenced base science can prove. Intellectually, I can understand much of the language the sciences of meteorology, astrophysics and biology use to describe the mechanisms at work in the certain kinds of spirals; but the spiral that made me and the one I ride on through space/time remain wondrous and awe-filling.

To fall back on Mystery to explain something of faith or what is truly impenetrable is not a copout. I do not feel it is a fudge. For me it is an acknowledgement that there are things, experiences, events and even realities that are cloaked and that Knowing in these instances is a matter of trust, and have nothing to do with empirical knowledge. Mystery is what lies at the heart of wonder; it exists at the limits of human hubris; it is the soft fringe of spirituality and the hard edge of religion.

Now as I ease back from the depth and breadth of this contemplation, and feel the slight weight of the Iona Mystery Bowl in my hands becoming aware I am here, I am aware of how appropriate it is that this bowl is the one for my Sunday Mystery Contemplations. I recall all the journeys I have made to Iona, most at this time of year. Those journeys changed me because the experiences and encounters I had on beguiling, thin and dangerous Iona altered my life, my-story, irrevocably and forever.

How? How did the patterns shape as they did? Why? Why were choices made regarding certain encounters? Why were particular events so charged with significance?

Why? It’s a Mystery.

Orion

I have searched for an image to go with this post, but none are as clear as the one I saw inspiring these words. I got up at 0300 to see the special eclipse not sure what to expect. In my pajamas, jumper and furry slippers I walked out of my little porch. Immediately in front of me was Orion. There were not lots of other stars confusing the view it was pretty much Orion standing tall above the Maize Mothers. There appeared ever so briefly a shooting star reminding me of the depth of space/time.

Although I got up to watch the moon slip into totality, and stood looking up in awe of her colour wreathed in darkness, but I was most taken by the view of Orion.

I made the acquaintance of Orion properly on Iona nearly 20 years ago. It was the first place he was close enough to touch. As I visited the island most often in October, it is not surprising that he was there to greet me. For me, his energy is quite powerful and mysterious. I look forward to my first sighting each Autumn and on such a special night this year, when the energies of the space/time were so evident made the moment even more powerful.

Orion 1

I revere your presence,
leader of the Sky hunt
through the wastes of Winter,
gathering your power
in the nights of Autumn.

I honour your authority,
caller of the Sky hunt
through the wilderness of galaxies,
focusing your strength
in the darkening of nights.

I respect your dignity,
master of the Sky hunt
through the mysteries of space/time,
holding your nerve
in the density of darkness.

Orion 2

I greet you, Orion,
this clear bright night,
ever deepening to the
cold harsh heart
of Winter.

I ask you, Orion,
to share your energy,
celestial light blazing
through the frozen sky
of Winter.

I thank you, Orion,
for offering your presence,
to sustain the fearful and weary
during every night
of Winter.

Orion 3

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

The Hunter and the Gatherer paired
provision the larder,
enabling the tribe
to be sustained and healthy,
year on year
through every season,
moon and moment.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

No longer able
to partake the flesh Beasts,
for in these days
it is neither freely given
nor reverently taken,
I still require
this energy to survive.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

When I greet and reverence you,
with grace and gratitude
I am able to receive this energy,
these gifts the Beasts
can only provide if taken
with respect when given the dignity
of a freely surrendered death.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

* * * *

Even for me the third poem raises issues and paradoxes that are complex and not easily resolved. What I am able to do is articulate and then wrestle with them. And always, always eat with an open and grateful heart.

Elements Meditations

In the past few weeks there have been many things to think about and so I’ve not been doing as much writing. It’s been a matter of consciously processing ideas and experiences, coming to terms with new ideas and ways of being, different ways of perceiving events and incidences/co-incidences that have been presented to me recently.

Some of them I have tried to write about, realising only after agonising for what seems like hours, but in truth is only moments, that it is not time to articulate for myself and communicate them for others.

I find this immensely frustrating.  Often infuriating, but I have to trust the process of revelation and its inherent timing.

There is one thing I can share, and will keep sharing now and then . . . I have a new mediation focus: The elements. This discipline came to me as I was sitting looking at my altar in an unfocused way a little over a week ago. I noticed that I had been gathering bowls that represented the elements, collecting them not really consciously. Some I’ve had for many years, but most have come to me in the last year. It seemed no accident; such things seldom are for me. I knew as the recently acquired ones began arriving they represented elements, but had no idea how I’d use them, beyond how they looked and resonated with me visually.

When I discovered there was one bowl  for six days of the week, I had to delve deeply to discover for me what was the missing element, what in the early days phlogiston was to those trying to understand the processes of life and nature. At last I realised that what holds the world together for me, though I understand much of the science, is Mystery. At that point I immediately picked up the Iona bowl off of my altar and knew this was the missing element, the one that holds the whole cycle together. So obvious it was hidden in plain sight before me.

I dowsed to choose the day for the meditation both morning and evening.

Sunday: Mystery, a bowl thrown, fired and glazed on Iona, a place of mystery for me.

Mystery 1Mystery 2

Monday: Fire, I picked this one up last year at the village Folk Festival.

Fire 2Fire 1

Tuesday:  Metal, from a charity shop for a few quid, and its song when thumped is wonderful.

Metal 1Metal 2

Wednesday: Wood, I got this last winter, its Yew my favourite turned wood.

Wood 1Wood 2

Thursday: Air, this one came the same day as Fire.

Air 1Air 2

Friday: Earth, this one is very heavy, rough and substantial.

Earth 2Earth 1

Saturday: Water, the most recent addition and to me a perfect representation.

Water 1Water 2

So, I began the meditation cycle last week and recorded the uses or significance of the elements. The lists are quite long. Things taken for granted every day, year after year suddenly have links and connections of amazing complexity. Whilst an individual element may be the substance to an item, it is only by employing products of others that enables humans to craft the various items. All things are linked.

I have not gotten any further than this rough appreciation of what we do, how we use, what the purpose is of each item from these elements. It is how the elements presented themselves to me. Without fail as soon as I sat with the bowl images and words poured into my awareness, always in pairs, some with an obvious association, others paradoxical and challenging. I never pushed this or sit down to think: Okay, so what do we use you for? I simply settled with as empty a mind as I could manage, not easy as my mind is always chattering away, busy.

I will share the contents of these lists as I ponder them in the weeks ahead. Having a list as a prompt in no way will diminish for me the profound wonder of looking closely at the products and natures of the elements that for me make up the world, for I cannot see atoms. And I still marvel that as closely as I may hold the bowl there is always an atom unimaginably thin, a membrane separating us. And it is the same with holding one’s beloved and anything or one else. Also I know that the elements’atoms are always in motion, dancing, shifting and darting about within the bowls, and in us. To me this knowledge just adds to my appreciation for everything around me, and makes the knowing that arises from my meditations far richer.

Doing this even this little while, and not going deeply into structure from an energetic perspective has made me see everything with fresh eyes. Another aspect of my reawakening, my re-emergence, my ongoing journey of anamnesis.